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At Heirloom Roses, we refer to roses that are used in climbing applications as “roses that climb” because there are two types of roses to consider in this category: climbing roses and ramblers.  Climbing roses are bred to grow tall. Ramblers also grow tall, but they have softer, more pliable canes and generally less thorns than climbing roses. Regardless of if you have a climbing rose or a rambler, the following pruning tips should be used to prune in Spring (February). The only exception is for once blooming ramblers which should be pruned after they bloom. Repeat blooming roses - as in most modern climbing roses - can withstand Spring pruning. Once blooming roses - usually ramblers - bloom on old wood, so prune keeping in mind that growth that develops the previous year will be that which produces blooms

Pruning roses that climb is more about training the canes and less about cutting them back. However, if you have an older climber that is not doing what you want it to do, you will need to recondition it, which requires some hard pruning.


There are two types of canes on roses that climb: main canes and lateral canes.  Main canes start at the ground and climb upward.  Lateral canes come off of main canes and produce blooms.  In order to have your rose produce blooms from top to bottom, you must train your main canes in a horizontal manner and allow the lateral canes to grow upward.  Main canes need to be horizontal for their lateral canes to produce blooms. Climbers that are not properly trained tend to have roses only at the top of the bush and none at the bottom or the center.

The most important thing to remember is to always start at the bottom of the plant and work your way up.  Starting at the bottom enables you to make decisions about the plant’s structure and health without getting mixed up on which main cane you are working on.  Older roses may have many canes that are intertwined, making it difficult to tell which cane you are working on unless you start from the bottom.



P – Prepare the Plant

Remove any canes going in a direction away from the main plant which cannot be trained back onto the trellis or structure. Also, remove any canes that are causing damage to the trellis structure.

R – Remove All Dead & Diseased Canes

Remove any canes that are dead.  Cut out canes that are broken or have open wear marks. This will eliminate areas where disease problems begin.  Also, remove old canes that are very woody and played out.  This will enable younger canes to shoot up and take the old canes place.  This will revitalize your rose. Keeping the number of main canes to about six will make the plant more manageable. Cut off the oldest canes each year once you have six or more canes to work with.

U – Understand Your Plant

Determine what you want this plant to do and how you are going to train the canes to achieve this.   This may take one or two seasons to achieve.  Try to imagine what the rose will look like when it is fully grown out.

Train your main canes in a horizontal fashion starting at the bottom of your trellis structure and weaving them from left to right/right to left as you move up your trellis.  This pattern will allow you to achieve maximum coverage with blooms.

Cut back your lateral canes to a bud eye that is just above the main cane.

N – Nothing Left Behind

Clean up all the cuttings and leaves on the ground when you are done pruning.  These can harbor spores that can cause disease later in the season.

E – Enjoy Your Roses

Proper pruning is the first step in growing healthy roses that will produce beautiful blooms for you to enjoy all season long.